Monday, September 28, 2015

Mobile Home Time Capsule

This is our rental.   Isn’t it the loveliest thing ever?  Okay, maybe not ever, but I would consider it a miracle!  The story of how we found this place starts back in Alaska.  We felt it was time to move south for many reasons and felt such peace about the move.  It really seemed as though God was throwing open doors  when it came to taking steps to get down here (selling our house, a new job for Josh, etc.) sometimes even faster than comfortable.  When perusing properties down here we began realizing that our priorities were changing and we weren’t caring about the houses so much as the land.  We had learned that renting when you arrive in a new area is best so that you can get to know your way around and what you want in a place before you buy.  So we were keeping our eye open for rentals, but didn’t want to commit to anything sight-unseen.  No worries, though, there seemed to be plenty on the market…

…until we arrived.  I called every realtor and property management in the two nearest counties searching for places, but there were so few available in our price range, and absolutely none that would take our pets.  The waiting list for possibilities was months long.  We even considered renting a trailer, but the one park that would accept our pets would not accept children!  Can you imagine!  I’m afraid they’re a bit of a non-negotiable!  We were at the end of our ropes and could no longer afford to stay in the hotel, so we checked out with no idea where we would sleep that night. 
No place to go and my little guy made me a clover crown

So, we went to a park and spent the day playing with the kids.  That afternoon, I got a tip from one of the gazillion realtors I had talked to previously: one of her friends had just bought some property and might have something that would work!  I called the number she gave right away and spoke to a rather confused man on the other end.  You see, he had just typed up an ad and was getting ready to push the publish button when I called and couldn’t figure out how I knew about it already!  Talk about timing!  Well, they showed it to us right away: a 1970s double wide that hadn’t been lived in for over a year.  It needed some cleaning, but was in relatively good shape.  And, if we would take it without them replacing the carpets, they would accept all three of our pets for no deposit or fee!  And the kids were allowed, too! =)

Best part: we’re on a little bit of land in farm country !  There’s several farm stands walking distance away where we  have indulged in the best fresh fruit and veggies at least weekly.  Within a mile is a county park full of trails and a cool, calm river for the hot days.  It takes Josh less than ten minutes to get to work, and our landlords have been truly wonderful and helpful.  They already have a grandparent-like relationship with our children.  We’re still going to look to buy our own plot, but this double wide is going to be harder to leave than I would have thought!  I am just so thankful for this place and wanted to say, “God is so good!”
All taped up and ready to go!

All that to lead us to the fact that this is an old house (but I’m okay with that!)  You know, there’s not a lot out there about sprucing up mobile home rentals where you aren’t going to put in a ton of money to update the look of the place.  I found nothing on painting mobile home walls!  Because they are not your typical spackled walls.  The wallpapers (yes, plural) were really peeling off the walls in the kitchen and I had to do something.  Our landlord asked if I would just paint it and I of course agreed; I enjoy painting!  First, I pried the trim pieces off with the back of a hammer, then I used this water and fabric softener concoction from Fancy Schmancy to get the layers of wall paper off and it worked so great!  Better than I expected! 

 But then I realized that under the bottom layer of wallpaper was just plywood.  When I tried to get that final layer off it was tearing the wood to shreds, so we determined the best thing to do was to just paint over it after a couple of coats of Kilz.  The color choice was not my own, but I do love how it turned out and how there is finally one un-patterned surface in this abode!  It’s such a resting place for the eyes! 

Most of the walls are wood paneling, but every wall papered area and drawer lining were such interesting prints, I wanted to share with you.  It felt like I was peeling back layers of time and I kept finding more and more patterns!  Some I like more than others.  I’m guessing at the eras, too.  Let me know if you’d switch any of them…







The only way I know the last one is because I added to the menagerie when I had to replace a couple sections of contact paper.  There are even more I can only see pieces of without really tearing into what's there.   I believe I'm nearly up to twenty different patterns in this house! (Two of the above are not paper, but other surface patterns.)  But wasn’t that kind of fun?  If you had to pick a favorite (or least favorite), which would it be?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Edible Chocolate and Peanut Butter Play Dough!

Today I’d like to introduce you to the silliest member of our family: meet Clancey!  He joined our family just a few months before our eldest was born.  You  could say I was in baby mode.  I also got six chicks at that time.  Life was a little crazy for a while, to put it lightly!  Anyway, Clancey has had a bit of a rough life with us thus far, having been attacked by moose twice and nearly fatally hit by a truck on the highway.  He loved the Alaskan winters, though, being half Malamute.  In fact, he was born at the beginning of winter, so by the time the spring came (at least six months later) he had such a hard time knowing where to go to the bathroom once all the patches of snow had melted!

I was just going back through photos last night and came across this video, taken exactly one year ago Saturday.  He loved cracking through those first layers of ice to catch the bubbles. And to think this year they’ve already been having snow on the ground for a couple weeks!  This makes me smile every time:
Clancey does the Fox Hop

Sometimes just going into a new season triggers fond memories.  For whatever reason, as the air began to get crisp and breezy, our little one (who’s only experienced four autumns) began to remember making edible play dough.  Although this is probably true to some extent anywhere, a lot of outdoor life is crammed in to the summer in Fairbanks, then we did all our fun indoor activities when the cold weather hit.  So he thought of this recipe and started reminding me about every other hour that we needed to make a batch.  And I’m so glad he did because it’s fun and simple, we can make it together, play with it together, and enjoy eating it together!  So yummy!  Really chocolate and peanut butter are always good together!  I remember this Reese’s commercial from TV Land when I was growing up!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crash

SO cheesy!  But memorable, I guess.  Digging up the recipe reminded me of how Mom would make it growing up.  In fact, she would get groups of our friends together and make huge batches of it at a time and everyone always loved it.  Except when my buddies of the time decided to eat the evaporated milk by itself.   That didn’t go over too well…

Anyway, I only had a little honey left so I just made a half batch of the recipe below, then split that and added a little cocoa powder to one to have the chocolate along with the peanut butter.  Yum!  It was hard to convince the little hooligans to play with it they were so busy just gobbling it down!  I love how quick this is too!  Super fast, no baking, 3-4 ingredients, and minimal dishes!  A delicious consumable that’s okay to play with.  That’s my kind of activity!

2 cups evaporated milk

2 cups peanut butter

1 cup honey

2 TBSP cocoa powder (optional)

Mix them together.  Enjoy!  Yup, that’s it!  Add more evaporated milk or peanut butter as needed to achieve the perfect consistency.  It will be a little more grainy than regular playdough, you’re just looking for a moldable texture.


Hope you’re enjoying this autumn-time and can make some new pleasant memories with your family this season!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Autumn Scavenger and I-Spy Jar

It’s AUTUMN!!!  I’m just so excited!  This is the first time in seven years that we’ve had a fall season that lasts more than a week or two!  (It’s super short in Fairbanks where the snow is already falling right now)  The colors and pleasant crispness and all the harvest activities are so appealing to me!
Behind our home are two trees side by side: an apple (see my previous blog post about these treasures!) and a horse chestnut.  The later took us a while to identify this summer, but now it’s perfectly obvious as it drops it’s fruit to the ground.  And it’s shedding its leaves quickly!  Dumping might be a more appropriate term.  

So our big guy started raking the leaves all together this week into a big pile.  He did pretty well before getting distracted and I was able to finish it up into a 3-4 foot pile.  I had to explain to them what to do, then ready…set…GO!  They sped to the pile and jumped right in!  Oh, they were thrilled!  Squealing and giggling, throwing the leaves in the air and burrowing down in.  By far the best part of their day!
Clancey getting in on the joy
Sometimes you just need to get outside and get some fresh air!  We were having one of those days earlier this week, and everyone was grumpy.  In fact, our oldest was seriously fussing that he did NOT want to go out!  I insisted because I knew it was just the medicine we needed, though I didn’t even know what we’d do once we got there.  We just started wandering and picking up tiny treasures, and as we went the mood improvement was drastic!  There were feathers, acorn hats, pebbles, lichen, pinecones, and bark.  Each new item was celebrated.  We got back to the house with a bagful and I wondered what we could do with our collection?

I had a freshly washed honey jar and we tucked them all away in there.  It was so fun to look at them all through the glass and remember finding each one!  We’ve hung on to it now as an I-spy jar.  They will try to pick out the items they found or I’ll ask them to find something white, round, sharp or whatever.  It’s really been quite fun and such a simple form of entertainment!  You could do this with anything!  I even thought about picking up litter along the road for some tidying and color variety.  Or maybe toys that get left out!  Even if you just kept it to natural items, it would look different depending on the season.

Then just yesterday I read about this Nature Pal Exchange and it looks so fun!  From what I understand, every season you can sign up to have a sort of pen pal in another climate.  Then you go on a nature walk and collect little treasures just like we did earlier.  You take them home, label them, and send them off to your nature pal while they do the same.  Then you get to discover nature treasures from a completely different region!  How fun!  And I love how they keep the focus on God's creation and how we can be responsible with it.  This is their first year and they're already supporting charities with the monies made, too!  I’m going to see if we can get in on this next one and I’ll let you know how it goes.  If you get a chance, check out their Instagram account, too.  Some of the collections are absolutely lovely!
Happy treasure hunting!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Healing the Hurts: Free Play Bandage Printable

Our daughter isn’t even two and her caretaker instinct sure has kicked in.  She makes sure everyone has all their food at meal times before she starts, things are shared evenly, gives the best hugs and makes sure each cut and scrape is urgently tended to. I think every little one can have most of their minor wounds miraculously healed by an adhesive bandage (trying to avoid brand-names!), but she wants to make sure everyone else has one, too!  And her dolls, and stuffed animals, and sometimes the wall… And, boy can the cost of bandages adds up quick!  Especially when you pick up those cute character ones.  We want to teach her that bandages aren’t stickers, but encourage her caring heart as well.

Then last week I found a pack of 300 labels (I used Avery 1” x 2 5/8”) and decided to whip up a pretend-play alternative.  Feel free to print and play with this pattern any way you like!  It’s saving us a pretty penny while our little one is saving the world as it is in her mind!  I’m rounding here, but we went from each bandage costing 30 cents to only 2!

All these bandages got her brother talking about doctors and nurses, what’s the difference and who’s better.  Naturally (being a nurse) I set him straight! =)  But then I was realistic and explained how they work together with a whole team of helpers to try to increase the health of others and themselves.  And now, he wants to be a doctor!  Who knows what might come of a sheet of play bandages!? 

Although not outdoors, one of our adventures this week included driving out to the science museum in Portland (OMSI).  I feel like a lot of their exhibits were over our little ones’ heads, but I still love the concepts their observing.  I remember not enjoying reading the placards at the museums growing up, but then when I later read about concepts in textbooks, I could visualize them because of what I had already seen.  So hopefully it will stick with them!  I’m only disappointed we didn’t even get to the human body exhibit!  I think they really would have picked up a lot as it’s something they’re interested in right now.  Just too much to see!  I guess we’ll have to go back! =)

Are you looking for more pretend medical play ideas?  Check out these free doctor's office exam forms, and this great freebie idea for play x-ray print outs!  Sure to be hours of fun!  Or even better, make your next doctor's office slightly less traumatic. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Seven Ways to Find Playscapes Near You (And 10 Pre-Tested in Lane County!)

Wonders of Nature (A Little Golden Book)

This is our life right now: Wonders of Nature.  (If you get a chance to pick up a copy of this book, Wonders of Nature, do!  So sweet and poetic!)  Every morning, the littles wake up and before I can finish picking up their breakfasts, they’re begging to get their shoes on (or not) and escape to the great outdoors.  This week we’ve been studying beetles and caterpillars, flattening mole hills, picking apples, and splashing in rivers.  I say that in multiple because we’ve been exploring fair number of parks since we’ve been here and an even higher proportion this past week while Josh was at Peterson University in Oakland.  Parks seem to distract kids from missing their dad the best, they meet friends, and sleep great that night!

It’s always hard finding where to go to play in a new town.  So far I’ve been very impressed with the parks in the Eugene area, so I wanted to share our local experiences with others in the area who might be curious, as well as general ways you can look for play areas in any town. 

How to discover new play areas near you:

1.       Drive Bys:  You know, to be quite honest, we’ve found the majority of parks by mistake.  Nothing beats exploring on your own, getting a little lost, finding some hidden gems and figuring out a new area.  My first memorized route in this town of crazy roads and traffic was to the grocery store (priorities, right?) and it was from there that I spied at least three of the parks we’ve visited!  Look for the brown rectangle park signs and yellow diamond playground signs.  In fact, even the kiddos recognize and seem to be on constant look out for these ones.

Drivers Ed Road signs
More info about recreational signs here

2.       Google (or other search engine) maps: Type in “playground” on the map and watch those red dots pop up.  Or “park” if you’re not particular about it having a play structure and swings.  A little tricky knowing just what you’re getting into, but it will often link to the parks web page and you can choose what area you want.  If you don’t see many, try zooming in and the smaller ones will appear.  Sorry if this is too elementary, but I myself am fairly technologically challenged, so it took me a little while to figure this out!  Maybe I can save someone else with a similar condition a minute or two! =)

3.       County Parks home page. Search for (your county) county parks.  The Lane County Parks page  has links to a variety of different parks as well as regulations and passes.  They also have a page listing all the parks in Lane County with information on the amenities provided, though the presence of playgrounds is not always mentioned.

4.       State Parks: Search for (your state) State Parks to find their web page.  Oregon’s is definitely geared more toward camping and outdoor adventures rather than playgrounds.  And of course it covers the whole state, so you have to narrow your search.  But if that’s what you’re looking for, this can also be a great tool. 

5.       Kaboom:  Have you ever heard of ?  You just type in your town and it pops up a map and list of play areas near you, both indoor and outdoor.  And you can add in the ones not yet listed!  Pretty convenient.  I’m going to have to play with this one some more.   

6.       School rules:  Did you know public school playgrounds are available to the public for play during non-school hours?  We visited these all the time growing up and got to discover many fun places we would have never seen otherwise!

7.       Word-of-mouth:  Do you know anyone in the area?  Especially if they have similar interests they are probably your best bet for directing you to the spots you’ll really enjoy.  Or, if you can find one park, ask others you come in contact with where else they like to go.  In my experience, people are usually more than willing to share their knowledge!
Mt. Pisgah

Just prepping this page I found so many more parks I want to check out!  I hope you can benefit from it, too!  Play is so necessary for everyone old and young alike and promotes physical and mental health.  Sometimes just knowing where to go can be half the battle.  Especially for homeschoolers or those with young children who may not have access to the play structures on a regular basis.  And you can use a lot of these searches as you travel, too!  Just remember to check local park regulations and fees; they’re usually posted on site.

My kids are totally into playgrounds right now, so those are always at the top of their lists!  But for those locals (or newly locals) reading this, I wanted to share a couple of our favorite spots so far:

1.       Discovery Village in Skinner Butte Park: Awesome play structures and water play!  Pretty busy and open with tons to do.
Discovery Village

2.       Fairmount City Park: Smallish park tucked behind the university that also has water play.  Very peaceful secluded feel to this park.

3.       Amazon Park: Lots of fun structures that seemed to enthrall a wide range of ages.  Outdoor pool in the summer and miles of paths.

4.       Willamalane Park: On our way to the grocery store! =)  Lots of play structures, skate park, and apparently there’s an indoor swim facility we have yet to discover.

5.       Hendricks Park: Although it does have a few swings, we appreciate this heavily wooded area best for its peaceful walking paths.

6.       Dorris Ranch: more info on this one in my last post, but this park has miles of paths, mostly through century-old hazelnut groves.  They also feature a living history village.  Although open to educational groups by reservation, we visited a community day last Friday and found it very interesting!

7.       Petersen Barn: this was the first park we visited (found word-of-mouth) and loved the sandy playground and open space.  Turns out, our new church meets in the community center here!
Petersen Barn

8.       Dorena Lake: nice swim area and wooded picnic area on this lovely lake in the hills.  A little bit of a drive from Eugene.

9.       Lowell park and Dexter Lake Park: equipment to climb on and a great swimming area.  The day we went here it was almost 100 degrees!  The cool lake was so pleasant!  Again, about a half hour drive.

Dexter Lake
10.     Armitage Park: paved paths that wind around by the river, gravel bars and large fields with picnic areas.
Armitage paths passing under bridges

Where is your favorite place to go outside and play?  Do you have one great spot that you keep going back to, or do you like to discover new place each time you go out?  I hope you have a great week and happy exploring!